Both players blunder, but who will blunder last?
With five games remaining in regulation, I wanted to posit two areas in which Karjakin may have an advantage over Carlsen.
Before the match began, the general consensus was that Carlsen is the better chess player.. The match started with Carlsen’s Elo at 2853, and Karjakin’s at 2772. If Carlsen and Karjakin played 1,000 games Magnus should come out on top. The longer the match, the more likely Carlsen’s advantages will over take Karjakin. The shorter the match, the more volatile the results become, and the better Karjakin’s chances become.
Carlsen has complained a couple of times about the rhythm of: gameday, gameday, rest day. Carlsen would prefer to play at least three days in a row. Apparently Carlsen doesn’t need much rest and the match would be more in his favor if there was less recovery time.
The dates of the last 3 games are: Thursday the 24th, Saturday the 26th, and Monday the 28th. That’s a rest day between each game, rest time that Karjakin needs more than Carlsen. Advantage Karjakin.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll make this short: Karjakin had 3 games as black in the last 5 games. He wins more often with the black pieces. We talked about it in the Introduction Article. Then I ranted about it in the Game 7 Article because everyone kept saying how excited they were for Karjakin to have two games in a row with white. Karjakin has more games with black than white, advantage Karjakin.
Here’s a transcript from a conversation a couple of journalists and myself shared with Fabiano Caruana today:
Journalist: What do you think of his (Carlsen’s) opening choices so far?
Caruana: “It’s a bit tame, he probably just wants to get a position where he feels he can outplay him. I mean he’s not really better, but he has chances for some pressure.
Journalist: Do you have different way you would be handling these opening moves by Magnus? (Looking at Game 8 move 6)
Caruana: "I think the way Karjakin plays is pretty much - I don’t know if he really prepared this - but he’s playing very logical moves. The only thing I would do different than Karjakin is try to put more pressure with white. But for black I think he is handling it pretty well. "
Up to Carlsen’s 35th move, everyone and their mother was complaining about what was sure to be the 8th draw in a row.
Both players had less than 2 minutes on their clock with 5 moves to make. Then Carlsen played c5, instead of the recommended Ne5.
All of the sudden engines are in Karjakin's favor, but would he have the time to capitalize on Carlsen’s blunder? Karjain did make a mistake and explained why he did so in the post game press conference. Here's Karjakin’s return blunder (the moves Rxd8,Nxd8,Nxc5,Qd6 have been played since last position)
Karjakin played Qd3 instead of Qa4. To see why Qd3 is a mistake we’ll have to continue the game a bit, all of these moves Karjakin said he calculated: Nxe6+, fxe6, Qe7+, Kg8, Qxf6. Just for fun, can you calculate white’s move that makes Qd3 not ideal?
The move is e4, the move Carlsen played in the game. The move cuts off the black queen's guard of the g6 square. Now Karjakin had to play Qd7, and lose his g6 pawn.
These are the kind of calculations going through Karjakin’s head in extreme time pressure. Kudos to Sergey for being able to communicate his annotations so clearly in the notoriously hazy post game state.
I’ll make the same suggestion I did in game 3: set aside at least 30 minutes in a quiet place and go over this game with Kingscrusher and other lichess commentators to appreciate this game better than I can communicate here. With that said let’s look at the blunder that gave Karjain the lead in the 2016 World Chess Championship.
White’s ideal move was Qa6, keeping an eye on black’s “a” pawn. h5 is a blunder because it doesn’t coralle black’s a pawn and gives Karjakin’s knight the g4 square. Now black is able to play a2 and use the a pawn as bait. If white takes the pawn immediately with the queen then: 53...Ng4+ 54.Kh3 Qg1, white is sadly forced to 55.Bf3 Nf2+ 56.Qxf2. If Carlsen instead moves 53.Qa6 then Karjakin plays 53...Qd4, and his attack transposes into the previously state line.
Was Carlsen lost before he moved h5? Karjakin says yes, after 50...Ne5 the game is won.
Here is Carlsen resigning Game 8
The big question on everyone's mind is: Did Magnus skip the press conference? This isn’t just an mildy interesting ethical question, Carlsen forfeits 10% of his winnings if he skips any press conferences as outlined in the player’s contracts. What's the answer: Kind of. First of all he blew past Kaja Marie Snare, in his post-game interview. Not a great look. Seconds later Carlsen came to take his seat, but he was alone on stage. What ensued was a very awkward minute where Magnus writhed at the pain of his loss in front of a silent crowd.
A fan in back shouted, “don’t worry Magnus you’ll get him!” Carlsen definitely heard him, but the words didn’t change the mood. Magnus waited about a minute then stormed off.
Here’s the question I don’t know the answer to that is central for deciding if Carlsen was out of line. Was Carlsen told to go out when he did, or did he just storm out before everyone was ready? If Carlsen was told to go out and left hanging, then I give Carlsen a pass, and a shame on you to whomever told him to go out so early. You have t oassume if someone loses such an important game they'll be upset, and the last thing you should do is make them wait alone in front of the press. On the other hand if Magnus rushed out before Karjakin, Anastasia, and the rest of the crew was ready for him, then yes, Carlsen missed the conference, he should behave better, and he should be penalized.
FIDE releases a statement: Carlsen will be fined for missing the Game 8 press conference.
How will Carlsen respond to this heartbreaking loss? We find out Wednesday.
Tyler Schwartz is a passionate chess ambassador. Tyler is the President of Chess at 3, teaching chess to children all over the world at the suprising age of 3. He is the Head of Media at lichess.org. Tyler also manages a chess club on the upper east side of Manhattan.